PUBLISHED: 12:13 25 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:45 20 February 2013
Amy Noton samples a windsurfing taster session at Carsington Water
Amy Noton samples a windsurfing taster session at Carsington Water...
Perhaps youve never thought of windsurfing as a good way of getting fit, but as anyone who has spent a solid session windsurfing will tell you, it isnt just great fun for all ages and abilities, it is also an excellent workout. The experience of windsurfing can be so relaxing it is almost therapeutic the feeling of being completely at one with nature, with your weight supported by the water and your board pushed along by the wind giving a sense of absolute freedom. At other times it is exhilarating; the invisible power of the wind urging you forward, allowing you to glide across the surface and demonstrate exciting turns and swerves on what seems like a knife-edge.
Although its often seen as a sport for professionals, windsurfing is actually more about technique than strength and with new lightweight kit and improved board designs, it is easier than ever to learn.
Around 30 years after the sport was first introduced, sailing clubs in the midlands are leading a nationwide campaign to encourage people of all abilities to try the sport with a series of fun-filled taster days. I was invited to Carsington Water for a lesson with Ben Hodgson, where during a 90-minute session I was taught the basics to get me afloat and onto the reservoir. However, certain that I would spend most of my time flailing around in the choppy waters, I was slightly intrigued and a little nervous at the thought of trying it out for myself.
During my first lesson I was given plenty of time to get the feel of things on dry land by using the windsurfing simulator. After being introduced to the equipment the board, sail, mast and boom and slipping on a wetsuit and buoyancy aid, it was time to venture onto the reservoir and put everything into practice. To really have fun, you want steady breeze whilst learning, yet conditions on the day meant that the first gust of wind (once I had finally got my balance) knocked me straight back into the water.
After a few disastrous starts I was ready to go and with back straight, knees slightly bent, hands firmly holding onto the mast and the sail at a 90 angle to the rest of the board, I attempted the hard part manoeuvring my hands onto the boom (the part you hold) and turning my feet to face the front of the board. Balancing when windsurfing is all about posture and leaning too far forward easy to do when youre scared of falling in not only makes you less stable but can quickly cause backache. Once the sail is finally in position, you can really feel the force of the wind and pretty soon I was halfway across the reservoir and a long way from dry land.
It was time to master turning, yet with the force of the wind constantly pushing me back this was easier said than done. Trying to turn the sail whilst lowering it to the water and keeping my feet equally apart took a lot of effort, but as instructor Ben explained, the trick is to do everything slowly and smoothly any sharp movements resulting in a quick dive into the water. Having finally got to grips with everything, I was soon sailing in the opposite direction and the feeling was incredible.
As well as being tremendous fun, windsurfing works both the upper and lower body and when you have mastered the technique, your legs are essentially in a half-squat position giving your body a great workout. I can see how so many people take to windsurfing after their first lesson and thanks to the fantastic team at Carsington, I am converted to this fun-filled water bound sport. Windsurfing is great exercise, extremely addictive and something I would recommend to people of all ages and abilities who dont mind getting a bit wet (and cold) in the name of fun.
Although getting drenched isnt the best part of windsurfing, safety is a huge priority at Carsington and all staff are fully trained, with constant water patrols ensuring a safe haven for both professionals and beginners. During lessons, instructors follow alongside and are always on hand with tips and words of encouragement there couldnt be a more comfortable way of learning.
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